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Mack Elevation tackles new path to purchase

BY Drug Store News Team

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Success is often one of the biggest blind spots a company can have, because you’re so busy doing well you don’t have the time to assess what it is you’re doing. That is one of the core reasons for being for the Mack Elevation Forum, “a share group on steroids,” described program founder Dan Mack, EVP of strategic business development for the Swanson Group, which hosted its most recent meeting on April 29 here at the Hilton Scottsdale.

The group brings together executives from noncompeting, smaller to mid-sized companies. Today there is a new path to purchase for the consumer: 38% are using mobile devices to make their final purchasing decision and 31% are using their mobile devices in the store to influence a purchase. For retailers and vendors that means a new path to consumer education and delivering product innovation, explained Mack. It’s about finding the holes in the market and figuring out where your brand can play a role.

To kick off the conversation, guest speaker Joe Magnacca, Walgreens’ president of daily living products and solutions, briefed Elevation Forum attendees on the transformation occurring today at Walgreens, as the company moves from what Magnacca described as an “operations-based” to a “merchant-based” business model.

Magnacca, the veteran of Canadian retailing who led the major transformation of New York’s Duane Reade stores to one of the design jewels in all of retail, talked about the new challenges that will lie ahead as the company continues to experiment and explore the drug store of the future. Retailers like Walgreens will look to new profit centers in the store, such as expanded convenience foods, more fresh offerings and retail clinics, all of which will create new pressure for vendors to demonstrate the uniqueness and non-transferability of their products in order to stay on the shelf.

Discussion led to opportunities for vendors to help retailers like Walgreens to create more of an experience for shoppers in the store. One way to accomplish that is with product packaging, shared Tim Cleary, VP sales at Purell Consumer/Gojo Industries. “The stronger the SKU level differentiation — by utilizing relevant colors, disruptive packaging — the more compelling your brand experience can become,” he said.

Tina Jackse, senior director of national accounts at Beiersdorf, noted that social media is one area to tie into retailer efforts to help improve the shopping experience. “We try to ensure that your company’s social media and other marketing efforts align to the brand image and merchandising being utilized within the store,” she said. To get there, Marty Marion, CEO of Cobalis, suggested using a third-party partner to help coordinate all social media tactics under one comprehensive platform.

For more photos from the Mack Elevation Forum, click here.

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‘Dropps’ in green bucket

BY Barbara White-Sax

PHILADELPHIA — Phosphate-free and biodegradable Dropps laundry detergent is getting greener. The premeasured, disposable pack detergent, made by Cot’n Wash, has partnered with TerraCycle to give consumers a zero-waste liquid laundry detergent option.


TerraCycle, an international “uploading company,” turns difficult-to-recycle packaging into affordable, eco-friendly products. Consumers can download and print prepaid shipping labels online, then ship their empty Dropps packaging to TerraCycle free of cost. Consumers earn two points for every empty Dropps pouch, which can be converted into a gift or cash for charities or schools.

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Don’t call it the end of an era

BY Rob Eder

Neither one of the co-
recipients of this year’s Fantle Award would want you to call it the end of an era. 


Tom Ryan only ever had one employer. From a staff pharmacist fresh out of the University of Rhode Island in 1974 to head of the company and one of only four people, including current president and CEO Larry Merlo, ever to lead CVS, Ryan’s story is unique — and not just because he was a CVS “lifer,” but also because of the indelible stamp his leadership has left on the company. As Ryan grew in his career, CVS grew from a feisty New England-based regional to a national drug store powerhouse to a multiheaded healthcare colossus. 


For Sammons, the path that led her to become the top boss at Rite Aid was much different, having joined the company at a time of immense turmoil following a highly successful run at Fred Meyer, where she had been president and CEO. DSN has long believed that when the final story is written on Rite Aid, Sammons will be remembered as a valiant hero who helped bring the company back through the darkness to a new renaissance that continues to unfold, led by the team that she helped assemble. Rite Aid’s most recent numbers are showing signs of organic growth as a couple of its most important strategic commitments begin to bear fruit — most notably, its new Wellness+ loyalty program, which is quickly gaining traction.


And all of this says nothing about the important leadership Ryan and Sammons have provided for the entire industry, both as past chairmen of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and two of the industry’s most important everyday ambassadors. As Washington continues to address health reform, it is clear that community pharmacy will play a larger role in the delivery of patient care in America. Ryan and Sammons have played an indispensable role in this.


But this also is why neither one of them would want you to refer to this as the end of an era. For one thing, the good work continues for both of the companies, led today by the teams they helped assemble. At CVS, where the change perhaps seems more dramatic given Ryan’s long career at the company, including almost 20 years in the captain’s seat, Ryan’s successor is practically a “lifer” himself, having been with the company for more than 20 years, coming over in the 1990 acquisition of Peoples Drug. And like Ryan, Merlo already has left an indelible stamp on the chain, which is comprised to a large extent of the assorted retail banners CVS has acquired through the years — many of which Merlo led the integration of.


Ryan and Sammons are proud to tell you that the beat goes on at each of their respective companies. That’s the mark of a successful leader. Not only do they leave their companies in much better shape than when they found it, but they also leave their companies as each continues to grow, led by strong, capable new leaders that will continue the story. That it is not the “end of an era” for either company is as much a tribute to the lifetime of achievement these two important executives have had as any trophy ever could be.

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